Vancouver culinary event celebrates women in food-and-beverage field

The sold-out long-table dinner aims to celebrate women working in an industry that is consistently dominated by men.

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Yes Shef!

When: Aug. 15 at 6 p.m.

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Where: Chambar Restaurant, 568 Beatty St., Vancouver

Tickets and info: Sold out;

Siobhan Detkavich’s passion for cooking was ignited by a dual-credit culinary training class at Okanagan College she signed up for during high school.

The Kelowna-based chef has since worked her way up in the industry, making a name for herself with her cuisine that focuses on locality and pulls from her Cowichan-Pacific Islander Indigenous heritage.

At age 23, the professional chef’s resumé lists an impressive roster of experience. She apprenticed at Terrafina at Hester Creek winery under chef Jenna Pillon; worked as a chef de partie at Mission Hill; competed on season nine of the Food Network Canada cooking show Top Chef Canada; just wrapped shooting in Ottawa on a new food series; and has received the green light to begin production on another television show focusing on food.

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“This year marks 10 years ago I was homeless,” Detkavich says. “And now, I just finished filming my first TV show.”

Her success undoubtedly boils down to her determination, talent, and drive. But, according to Detkavich, it’s also due to a few key culinary guides.

“I’ve had my share of incredible chefs and incredible mentors,” Detkavich says. “I definitely don’t think I would be close to the position that I’m in if I didn’t have the networks that I’ve made.”

Detkavich points to chef Pillon in particular as one of the biggest mentors of her young career.

“She had a lot of patience for me,” Detkavich says. “Not only as a mentor in education through work, but she definitely took on an appropriate employer-motherly role.

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“Because my mom wasn’t always around when I was in high school and whatnot, she wanted to kind of be that role model for me.”

During her time on Top Chef Canada, Detkavich looked to honour Pillon by re-creating a French toast dish they had shared many times during their weekly brunches. Detkavich will look to honour that mentorship again on April 15 during the Yes Shef! event at Chambar Restaurant where she will be joined by 15 other B.C. food and beverage professionals for the special event.

“I’m going to be doing a brown butter gnocchi with a kombucha squash puree. And then it’s going to have wild mushrooms and sunchoke chips,” Detkavich explains of the planned entrée. “I had so many different ideas of the dish that I wanted to create. But then, last minute, I just kind of scratched all of that and I’m like, let’s just make a dish that feels like home to me.”

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The planned gnocchi recipe is a take on a dish that Pillon first taught Detkavich to make when she started working on the “hot side of the line” in the kitchen at Terrafina.

“It’s kind of like my rendition of that dish,” Detkavich says, noting the menu addition is a suitable nod to her own role model during an event that is designed to create new mentor-mentee relationships in professional kitchens.

The upcoming culinary event will see an all-women crew of five chefs (Detkavich, Andrea Carlson of Burdock and Co., Tia Kambas of Chambar, Mariana Gabilondo of Richmond Country Club, and Daria Andriienko of Five Sails) along with five chef apprentices from Vancouver Community College create dishes that will be paired with wines by five sommeliers (Shiva Reddy of Burdock and Co., Jo Owens of Vin Van, Esmé McLaughlin-Brooks of Chambar, Jenna Briscoe of Cafe Medina, and Reverie Beall of AnnaLena), and a welcome cocktail from bartender Yana Holdsworth of The Fifteen Group.

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The ticketed long-table dinner will be hosted by chef Meeru Dhalwala of Vij’s and My Bambiri.

Organized by the Women of Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality (WORTH) Association, a local society “dedicated to advancing women in the recreation, tourism and hospitality industries,” according to the website, the first Yes Shef! dinner was in 2019. That initial fundraising event — funds go toward WORTH’s networking and education events for women in the industry, which are offered free of charge or at a minimal fee, according to the organization — similarly sold out.

Although, not quite as fast as this year’s offering did.

Tia Kambas.
Tia Kambas. Handout/WORTH

“We sold out within, like, two weeks of launching tickets,” said Kambas, who is the director of operations at Chambar and an organizer of the event. “And in Vancouver, which is kind of known to be a last-minute city, it’s a bit wild that we were able to sell out so quickly.”

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Capped at 80 attendees, the event also aims to celebrate women working in an industry that is consistently dominated by men.

According to recent data from Tourism HR Canada, there are 10,000 fewer women currently working in the food and beverage industry in B.C. compared to pre-pandemic levels. The number of men working within the industry during this time has increased.

“I came up in a time where it was quite difficult to be a woman in a kitchen. Not as hard as it was 10 or 15 years before me, but definitely we’re making a lot of strides to make kitchens a more inclusive environment,” Kambas says.

Starting as a dishwasher at Chambar 17 years ago, Kambas is no stranger to the slow path to higher positions in a restaurant setting. It’s a career trajectory she says can often be slower for women due to lingering biases within the industry.

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“There came a point in my career where I was like, ‘Well, I don’t think I can keep going.’ And that’s because it felt like I was overlooked sometimes, especially when I had left Chambar and gone to other places,” Kambas says.

Events like Yes Shef!, and the broader network of WORTH initiatives, are aimed at empowering women in the industry to enter the field, to take the steps to the next professional level, and more.

“Just having strong female leaders and working with young women, essentially just allows them the opportunity to grow and set goals,” Kambas says. “Just giving people the forum to speak openly. There is something that’s big in that.

“And that’s how we become successful.”

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